The question “Are the Golden State Warriors bad for the NBA?” is one of those classic modern sports debates, both in its intrinsic qualities and its ability to spin endlessly without going anywhere useful.
There’s nothing really to be done about it regardless of where you land because the Warriors are a great team, and they figure to be great for the foreseeable future.
If you think that’s great, you’re in luck. If you think that stinks, too bad. Salary rules are in place that made a team like the Warriors possible, and the collective bargaining agreement is in effect for at least the next four seasons.
However, there are a few people whose opinions on the Warriors matter greatly. Chief among them is NBA Commissioner Adam Silver — and interestingly, his opinion on the Warriors seems to have changed and softened in the past two years.
A couple of years back, when Kevin Durant joined a Golden State squad that had just set the NBA regular-season record for wins (73), Silver said this: “I don’t think it’s good for the league. … When you aggregate a group of great players, they have a better chance of winning than many other teams. … I do not think that’s ideal from a league standpoint.”
Fast-forward two seasons. The Warriors have won two more championships (giving them three of the past four, with only a LeBron miracle preventing a fourth). Depending on how generous you feel, the number of teams with a realistic chance of winning the 2018-19 title is somewhere between one (Golden State) and three (Golden State, the second-best team in the West and the Celtics).
At a news conference in Las Vegas on Tuesday in the midst of Summer League action, Silver had this to say: “I don’t necessarily think it’s per se bad that the Warriors are so dominant. As I’ve said before, we’re not trying to create some sort of forced parity. What we really focus on is parity of opportunity.”
Silver could be spurred on in part by the league’s financial position and popularity. At a time when TV ratings for the NFL and a ton of other programming are dropping, NBA national TV ratings went up 8 percent last year. Wolves fans, eager to support a winning team but knowing full well they had no chance at winning a championship last year, filled Target Center regularly.
There are extreme haves and have-nots. I took a look at recent NBA seasons and the number of teams with fewer than 30 wins or 55-plus wins. In the past 10 years, there have been an average of 12 such teams combined. In the eight years before that, the average was nine teams in those combined ranges.
But maybe instead of decrying the decline of the NBA’s middle class, we should just accept it for what it is: Teams are either striving to keep up with the best (like Houston adding Chris Paul last year and the Lakers adding LeBron James this year) or they’re unmistakably playing for the future.
That seems to be what Silver has done, and his opinion actually counts.